The first contrivance for grinding the grain of the early settlers was the mortar, next the hand mills, and then the horse mills. The first one of the latter kind was erected in 1817 on the north side of Phelps Prairie, by Ragsdale Rollins. The next one was built in the Burns settlement, in 1819, by William Burns, who also erected the first cotton-gin in the county daring the same year.
The next cotton-gin was erected on the Dillard farm, in 1825, by Jonathan Herrin. “About that time the Burnses put up their mill, and Martin Duncan built one on the north edge of Phelps’ Prairie. Burns had improved his mill so that by 1830 he could grind twenty-five bushels of corn a day and his boys would take the meal on horseback to Equality, forty miles, and swap it for salt.
In 1823, John Roberts put up a horse mill on his farm, and the same year John Lamb built a mill on Herrin’s Prairie, which was afterward removed by Jasper Crain to Phelps’ Prairie.
About the year 1825, George Davis put up a mill on the Erwin farm, and in a few years Stephen Stilly built one at his residence. Soon after this, McDonald built the first water mill on the Saline, in the Tanner settlement. The next was built by George Davis. Seven years later John Davis built the third, now known as the Sims mill. Still later, Stephen Blair put up a water mill on Big Muddy.
In 1838, William Ryburn built a good horse mill on the Eight Mile, and Yost built one in Marion. The first steam mill was built by Milton Mulkey, in Marion, in 1845. The next was by Erwin and Furlong, in 1856, at Crab Orchard. In 1862, Herrin, Polk and Harrison built the Herrin’s Prairie mill.
In 1870, Mann and Edward built a large woolen manufactory (in Marion). Now the county is well supplied with both saw and flouring-mills.
(Extracted from the Goodspeed “History of Gallatin, Saline, Hamilton, Franklin and Williamson Counties, Illinois,” published by Goodspeed Publishing Co., Chicago, Illinois, 1887)